Dr. Joseph Reed makes some suggestions to the Upshur County Board of Education during their recent meeting Dec. 13 at Union Elementary School. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

One citizen has ideas about how to strengthen Upshur Schools — and he believes info about the levy should be disseminated ASAP

BUCKHANNON – A longtime medical professional in the Buckhannon-Upshur community urged the Upshur County Board of Education to begin promoting the renewal of the excess levy, among other actions he believes would strengthen the school system.

Dr. Joseph Reed of Buckhannon spoke during the public comment section of the Dec. 13 Upshur County Board of Education meeting to share some suggestions he hopes BOE members might consider.

“I do not pretend I have a scientific background to prove my suggestions are good,” Reed said.

First, he said he thought it would be helpful to survey graduates of Buckhannon-Upshur High School every five years and suggested using class reunions as one of the mechanisms to be able to poll the graduates.

“Ask them which courses they had at B-UHS that have helped them the most and what courses they did not have that would have been a help while in school,” Reed said. “Ask them what courses they had that were a waste of their time and allow them to make comments.”

Next, Reed suggested the BOE and Upshur County Schools administrators start promoting the excess school levy renewal now.

“Find a champion in each community to help,” he said. “Then, go to those communities and start talking about the levy now. Do not wait until three months or six months ahead of the vote to get the word out.”

The levy, which failed by 166 votes in the November 2022 General Election, will be on the May 2023 Primary Election ballot for reconsideration. The current five-year expires June 30, 2023, and has been in effect since 1999.

Reed’s third suggestion was to consider separating out students who have no interest in school and look for challenges specifically with them.

“I suspect some of them could be turned on [to learning],” Reed suggested.

Fourth, Reed said he would like to see parenting skills classes for both girls and boys.

“It could be along the lines of what is required for those considering adoptions or foster parenting,” he said.

Fifth, Reed suggested Upshur County Schools and BOE keep circulating news regularly out into the community.

Next, Reed said he thinks the BOE and Upshur County Schools Administration should consider encouraging people to contribute what they would have paid in taxes if the levy is not approved.

“I would even ask those who could to double the amount,” he said. “The contributions could possibly be funneled through the Upshur County Foundation for Better Schools. I talked to Don Nestor about that, and he said they could handle that, but details need to be worked out.”

For his seventh point, Reed told BOE members to always use their microphones when speaking during their BOE meetings.

“The microphones work. I suggest if we (in the audience) cannot hear you, that not being able to hear in the audience is a violation of the open meetings rules – however, I could not find that under regulations,” Reed said. “If nothing else, I do believe not being able to hear in the audience is a violation of ethics.”

Members of the Upshur BOE asked Reed to provide them with a hard copy of these suggestions.

Also, during Tuesday’s Upshur County BOE meeting, Matthew Sisk, Director of Student Safety and Emergency Preparedness, updated the BOE regarding the litigation they joined in on during Spring 2022.

“As you are aware, vaping is an epidemic in our society,” Sisk said. “You have read in the news many times how big of a problem it is. In the spring, I presented evidence to the board regarding the problem in our school system. You can easily see how tobacco was once a problem. Following smoking, it was a problem with chewing tobacco and almost overnight, it became vaping.”

“As a response to this, we moved to join in the litigation against JUUL, Inc. which is the primary distributor and the primary marketer to young people in the form of vaping,” he added. “I am excited to announce JUUL has announced they are willing to reach a settlement with government[al] agencies. At this point in time, they have not released any details, but we think it is important to notify you all that JUUL is looking to settle.”

Also, Upshur County BOE members voted unanimously to approve providing funds in the amount of $85,750 to aid in the rehabilitation of the tennis courts at the Upshur County Recreational Complex. At their Nov. 29 meeting, BOE members voted to provide a letter of support for the project until they could put the matter on the agenda and formally vote on it.

Upshur County Schools Finance Director Jeffrey Perkins reported that the funds for their portion of the project could come from funds the school system received from the state of West Virginia for their increased enrollment over the school year. BOE member Daya Wright made a motion to approve funding the project, which was seconded by BOE member Roy Wager before passing. The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at 6 p.m. at Tennerton Elementary School.

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